“A lot of knee problems are chronic, caused by years of use or abuse. They may not show pain symptoms for years. But then, a small fall or minor injury can produce what seem to be disproportionate problems. What we’re actually seeing are the results of years of wear and tear, with the joint pushed past its limit by a minor event.”
Ganesh Ramachandran, DO
Board Certified Orthopedic and Hand Surgeon
Floyd Memorial Orthopedic Group
The knee is a complex structure designed to bear your body’s weight while it flexes and extends, allowing you to run, walk, jump, kick and sit. However, because of its complexity and workload, it is also the body’s most commonly injured joint. Orthopedic Surgeon Ganesh Ramachandran, DO, offers guidance for recognizing when it’s time to get professional care for a knee problem, and provides some simple tips for keeping your knees healthy.
The knee is made up of several types of tissue and moving parts. These include bones, cartilage, muscles, tendons and ligaments. “Typical injuries include contusions, fractures, exacerbation of arthritis, as well as tears of the ligaments, muscles, cartilage or meniscus,” explained Dr. Ramachandran. “Initial treatment for a knee injury generally involves rest, the application of ice, elevation and antiinflammatory medication, as long as there is no medical condition such as an ulcer or gastrointestinal bleeding that would preclude these medications.”
When You Need to See a Doctor
“Any knee injury with one of the following symptoms should be evaluated by
a medical professional as soon as possible,”said Dr. Ramachandran.
- Pain that is severe.
- Pain that is unresponsive to rest, ice,elevation and anti-inflammatories.
- Pain that persists for weeks, despite getting some relief from the measures above.
Diagnosing and Treating Knee Injuries
As Dr. Ramachandran explained, “In evaluating patients with knee injuries, we often use X-ray, sometimes an MRI, and may even use a CAT scan. Arthroscopy is a procedure that can be used for both diagnosis and treatment.” During arthroscopy, the surgeon inserts a tiny, lighted tube through a small incision in the knee. Images of the inside of the joint can then be seen on a television screen. Often, small, loose pieces of bone or cartilage can be removed and torn ligaments repaired while the arthroscope is in place.
Depending on the diagnosis, treatment may involve rest, physical therapy, arthroscopic or open surgery, or a combination of these therapies.
Tips to Keep Knees Healthy
Accidents can happen to anyone. But here are several tips that can help you avoid injuries and keep your knees healthy.
- “Maintain a regular amount of low-impact exercise,” said Dr. Ramachandran, “like walking, biking or swimming.”
- Leg muscles help protect and stabilize knee joints. It’s important to keep the quadriceps at the front of the thigh, and hamstrings at the back of the thigh strong and flexible through stretching and exercise.
- “Keeping your weight down is a very important preventive measure,” said Dr. Ramachandran. “Excess pressure on the joints from being overweight contributes to pain and degeneration.”
- “Wearing the right shoes when you exercise minimizes the risk of injury. Choosing footwear that is appropriate for the activity reduces twisting and other motions that stress the knee.